Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Falken Tire ALMS Visits the Creation Site of Their Race-Winning Tires

While many teams and drivers use the off season to rest up for 2013, the group at Team Falken Tire has been hard at work preparing for the future. Since checkered flag waved at Petit Le Mans in October, Falken Tire has been busy applying the 2012 season data to the development of the 2013 tires. 

Last month, Team Manager Derrick Walker and Falken Tire drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler journeyed with the staff of Falken Tire to Japan to visit Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI), where the race winning tires used in the American Le Mans Series are developed, created and tested.  In Nagoya, Japan, the group went on a Motorsports Factory tour at the SRI facility where not only did the team get to meet the group of individuals that created the tires, but they also had the opportunity to sit down for a question and answer session to learn more about past and future developments.

“All of the people at SRI were very friendly and welcomed us warmly,” said Wolf.  “They tried to answer all our questions as we discussed the plan for next year. I was surprised to see how they have already applied the data from our last race at Petit Le Mans. They did a lot of data analyzing.”

After visiting the Motorsports factory, the group traveled to the Technical Center at the SRI Kobe facility, where the tires are designed.  The Technical Center also played host to discussions about the future of Falken Tire in the American Le Mans Series.

“An important part of the visit was to meet with the team headed up by Mr. Nishi to review the 2012 season and more importantly our plans for the 2013 season,” said Team Manager Derrick Walker. “The trip to Japan to visit the both the development and manufacturing plant was very interesting for me, not only were we able to see the process of making these very special tires but we were able to meet all the team involved in the program, many of who we never see here at the races.”

The data collected from Petit Le Mans will play into effect as early as next week when the team conducts the first test of the off season at Sebring International Raceway. “They have made a plan for our upcoming test to the first race,” said Wolf. “What they want to do next year looks very good and I was very pleased and what we saw. If they can bring what they have on paper on the street in a tire, I’m sure we’ll continue to move forward.”

“The trip to visit SRI Motorsports in Japan was extremely productive,” said Kevin Jones, Falken Tire’s ALMS Supervisor. “Visiting the motorsports factory and technical center allowed our drivers and team manager to better understand the tire development process which will help our team give focused feedback to our engineers in Japan for 2013.  It was great to get the entire ‘brain trust’ in one room to discuss and plan for the future of this program moving forward.”

The trip concluded with a team dinner in celebration of the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix win, marking the third win for Team Falken Tire.

“We were treated to a typical Japanese dinner on our last night,” said Derrick. “It was a great night and a very warm welcome from all the hard working guys behind the brand.”

Bryan echoed the thoughts of his co-driver and Team Manager. “Our trip to Japan was very informative and extremely successful. We left Japan feeling energized and having a clear goal and direction of the program.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Team Falken Tire's Ode to Helmets

For a new or casual race fan, it can be difficult to identify American Le Mans Series drivers while on track. The 2012 running of Petit Le Mans hosted 42 entries with three drivers to a car. Without each driver wearing a unique helmet, it would be close to impossible to identify drivers while on track.
It was not until the 1930s, over 30 years into the evolution of motorsports, that race tracks and sanctioning bodies started to require the use of helmets in motor races.  Even then, helmets in those days and the couple decades to follow consisted of simply of leather or cotton with a small strap under the chin of the driver. Present day helmets now consist of a carbon exterior, allowing drivers to use the canvas to showcase a design of their choosing.

One can never underestimate the power of a helmet’s presentation. One of film’s most beloved villains, Darth Vader, has arguably the most famous helmet in pop culture. Not only did the helmet keep the fictional character alive, but the appearance added a sense of fear and intimidation. The dark colors combined with the large eyes and rigid jaw immediately reflected the personality of the antagonist.

 Although the helmets of Falken drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers may not be as intimidating as Vader’s, they are just as unique.  We asked Falken Tire fans to send in their questions and we sat down with the drivers to learn about both of their helmets.

Wolf Henzler
In the beginning when I started racing, I didn’t care about the design of the helmet and I didn’t have anything special in mind. I just brought a helmet to a painter and told him to do something, and he did it. Whenever I got a new helmet, I had a new design or different colors, so it was always something new.

At one point, when my racing became more professional, I thought maybe I should get a design and keep it through my whole career of racing. I had no idea what to do. I went to my uncle, who raced in the 80s, to see what he did with his helmet. He had a design with a blue or red arrow on his helmet, and I liked it and thought, “Why not do that?”

For my next helmet after that, I told the painter to do something with an arrow, starting with the back of the helmet going over top or on the side, and I asked for bright colors. Colors you can see immediately when the driver is sitting in the car. You can instantly identify who is driving. In the beginning it was yellow and green very bright. I kept those two colors for a couple of years, and then I started to change the colors.

I always kept the arrows over the years, only changing the design a little bit. Right now I have three helmets. One is with ALMS, and for that one, I used the Falken teal and blue. I have one in yellow for Europe, and one in orange for when I’m testing for Porsche.

Since we have to have carbon fiber helmet, the price for a helmet is about $4,000 USD, which is pretty expensive. Then for a paint job, it can vary between $500 and $1,000 USD. Since we’re driving only closed cars with a windshield, we keep the same visor and it’s open all the time to get more air inside the helmet.

I replace my helmet about every two years. My next helmet will have the same design. It’s my favorite so far.

Bryan Sellers
A driver’s helmet is their business card. You know early on from your career that you stick with one design and it evolves as you grow up and styles change. One of the things that always remained true of all my helmets was the design. It was something that helmet painter and I just jotted up because we liked the way it looked.

It’s changed a little over the years: where the scallops go and how the lines fall, but all and all the design has stayed true over the past ten years or so. The other thing is the color. Orange is my favorite color and came about early when I stared my career, even in karting. One of the things my dad always said was, “You can have it painted however you want, but it has to be bright so you can pick it out on track.” A bright orange has always been on my helmet in some way or another in all of the helmets I’ve had. It’s still funny to this day because people tell me “I can see when you’re in the car because of your orange!” it serves its purpose.

I always have some sort of design laid into the backgrounds of my helmets--Something that you can’t see from a distance, but once you get closer you can see it. I’ve used the same helmet painter for over ten years now. He changes them from helmet to helmet, but there’s some sort of design that is laid back into the paint that is ghosted in. On this one it just so happens to be circles for no particular reason.

On the helmet right now it’s a matte black on some parts. But when you touch the helmet, it’s rubber. It’s not just a matte finish. The matte finish phase was coming in and I had a couple helmets like that, but my painter and I both wanted to do something different. My painter said ‘I have some really cool pain that feels like a hockey puck. What if we do part of your helmet in that?”  So we did part of it with that black to give it a contrast. By regulation, you have to run a carbon helmet. Even though it’s matte black and it’s a rubber finish, you can look close and see all the carbon outlays in the black, where he just did a light coat.

For me, it’s been more about the color and staying true to the design than it has been any particular features. It’s neat when I go back and look at my helmets through the years. They’re all so different with shades of orange and complimentary colors to go along with them, but they’re all still the same. You can tell it’s one of my helmets. That’s what it’s about for me: Being able to look and say, “Oh that’s different than the last,” but yet you still know whose it is.

You also need to take into account sponsor obligations. We always have the small things that we try to keep on there, like the visor strips. Wolf’s has to say Porsche, and mine should say Falken, so we both have those on our visors.

You change your clothes and your styles, but that’s the one thing that has stayed true from when I was a kid until now.   I like my helmet. It’s one of the few things I have in my life in my life that I haven’t changed for that long.

Latest Links:
- There's a new! Take a look and let us know what you think!
- Falken Tire announced plans for the 2013 season! You can read the release here!
- The guys at SPEEDHUNTERS outdid themselves again. Their latest piece featuring Team Falken Tire perfectly captures the allure of the No. 17 Porsche. To pick a favorite photo is impossible. Click here to view.
- The HPI Racing Falken Tire RC car will be available just in time for the holidays! Be sure to add this collectible to your wishlist!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Round 10: Falken Finishes Petit Enduro in Sixth and Sellers wins Most Popular Driver

Whether we can believe it or not, the 2012 American Le Mans season as drawn to a close. The 15th Annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta was the 10th and final round of the season and Falken finished the 10 hour endurance event just seconds away from fifth position. 

In 2012 Team Falken Tire was one of three ALMS teams to debut the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. With the new car, Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler again dominated the streets of Baltimore to take the team’s third ALMS win, in addition to two more top five finishes. Falken finished the 2012 season 5th the GT standings and drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler 8th in the GT driver standings.

Throughout the season, Team Falken Tire has been honored by the fans. In June, Porsche Factory Driver Wolf Henzler was named by the fans as the “Best Rain Racer,” and in July, Bryan Sellers was voted the ALMS “All American Racer.” At the 2012 American Le Mans Series end of the year banquet, Bryan Sellers was chosen by the fans as “The Most Popular Driver,” and Crew Chief Alex Zaric was honored by the series as the GT Mechanic of the Year.

Here’s a look into Falken’s final race of the season at Road Atlanta.

Team Falken took full advantage of the several days of pre-event testing to find the best possible tire combination and car set up for the big race.

The crew using the time in between sessions to work on the No. 17 Porsche.

Here Lee is in the process of working on the master cylinder.

Looking in through the left rear, Engineer Brian is hard at work.

Austrian Racer Martin “Raggi” Ragginger returned to Falken Tire as the third driver for the event. Here, he’s chatting with Lee and Brad before heading to pit lane for another test session. 

In between the test sessions, Bryan and Martin were kind enough to give tours to some special Falken Fans. The fans in this group were members of the 10 Tenths Motorsports forum; a forum where Falken interacts with motorsports fans on a daily basis.

Crew member Brad even took time to show some fans other parts of the car while Bryan and Martin addressed the rest of the group.

 Bryan shows the fans inside the car and demonstrates driver changes, as well as explains all the buttons and sensors inside the car.

The HPI Racing Falken Tire RC car is finally complete and will available soon on The mini No. 17 Car made an appearance, where our own crew and other crews had to stop by and check it out.

HPI’s attention to detail is incredible!

One of the morning tests was cold and wet. Since rain and such chilly temperatures weren’t predicted for race day, the test wasn’t too beneficial to the teams, but most still ran for at least some of the session.

Bryan chats with the team and tire engineers following the session. His co-driver Wolf Henzler was feeling under the weather and decline to participate in the session, making the feedback from Sellers even more valuable.

Engineer John speaking with Falken Tire engineer Yoshi about the tire strategy for the upcoming tests and race.

Besim and Engineer Brian working on the gear box. When we asked Brian what they were doing specially, his response was, “Putting in the banana peel shooter.”

Ricky working inside the back of the rear-engine No. 17 Porsche.

Lee takes a moment to test the new helmet lights for the night sessions.

Bryan and Martin gives a tour for another set of Falken Fans, a combination of more 10 Tenths users and twitter contest winners.

 After the tour, Martin relaxes in the Falken rig for a few minutes before going back out on track. With the constant interviews, tours and test sessions, these drivers went above and beyond their normal duties during this race event.

Bryan is a painting by Paul Holroyd, a Porsche journalist and motorsport artist in the United Kingdom learned of our twitter auctions and wanted to donate to the cause. He contacted us in June offering to paint a piece for and end-of-the-season auction. Four months later, the painting was complete, signed, shipped to the United States and signed by Derrick Walker, Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler. GTI Motors (Selby North Yorkshire) was amazing enough to donate to the cause and pay for the shipping for the piece. The bidding went on for two hours and the painting finally sold for $500.17!

Brandon from stopped by to interview Martin and Bryan. Once the three of them got to talking about cars, it was difficult to cut them off!
Justin Bieber attacks again. A die-hard fan remembered the Justin Bieber prank from earlier in the year, and brought by some Justin Bieber tape. Bryan, Wolf and Martin spent the rest of the weekend covering each team members’ equipment in tape. Including Wolf’s helmet.

The Falken Tire Porsche in pit lane before night practice.

Wolf Henzler back on his feet, and behind the wheel of the 17 Porsche in time for night practice.

Lee and Bryan enjoy the calm before night practice begins.

The Falken Porsche under the lights in night practice, snapped by crew member Besim.

Another early morning at the track, but the crew never seems to mind.

Martin and Brian make another appearance at the Porsche Platz, speaking to members of the Porsche Club of America. They stayed answering questions, signing autographs and discussing the upcoming race.

The Falken Tire Camera crew has arrived! You can check out their amazing photos and videos on and Falken Tire’s YouTube Channel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Alex Zaric, the 2012 GT American Le Mans Series Mechanic of the Year!

The drivers, engineers, and managers watch on from the pit box.

After following us on twitter all season long, Superfan Erin finally made it to an ALMS race to say hello to the crew and drivers. She also brought the team their favorite snack: a one-pound bag of Peanut M&M’s! She also made sure she was first in line to get her autographs and swag!

It’s race day! In between the final warm  up and the pre-race grid, the crew takes a few moments to make sure the Porsche is polished up and ready to go! 

Brittney and Melanie are ready to go on grid at Road Atlanta!

Needless to say, whenever they stand next to the Porsche, the three of them draw quite a crowd. 

Bryan watches the start of the pre-race grid walk from the pit lane wall. Shortly after he jumped down to say hi to fans and his fellow drivers. 

The final moments before going green, as the national anthems were sung.

The three Falken drivers have their final meeting before the race.

Crew member Brad does the final check on Bryan before the race.

Raggi waits on the wall for the first pit stop of the 10 hour race.

The first pit stop of Petit Le Mans. Bryan Sellers hands the wheel over to Martin Raggi and the team adds new tires and fuel. 

Engineer John, Bryan and Wolf watch on as Raggi climbs through the GT field. 

 Another pit stop for Falken as the sun starts to set.

Like two peas in a pod, Wolf and Bryan watch the TV and data screens during Raggi’s stint.

Wolf stands with Team Manager Derrick Walker as he waits to jump in the car for the final session of the race.

The final pit stop of the race: Raggi hands the wheel over to Wolf under the lights of Road Atlanta.

The crew watches as the final laps wind down and Wolf brings the Porsche home with a sixth place finish.

Thank you to all the fans that came out for the final race of the year. We plan on keeping our presence all off season long, so don’t go anywhere! Here are the fan photos from Petit Le Mans: 

 This photo by Darren (@dkleonard) shows just how close to the ground the Falken Porsche really is.

She even looks just as good looking on TV! Photo by Esteban (@elf_15lc).

The Falken Porsche in the daylight, racing out of 10b. Photo by Allan (@grand_amfan99).

@griffspix snapped one of our favorite night shots of the Falken Porsche.

Three times the mischief and three times the talent with the Falken Trio. Photo by Jesse (@jeriley)

If this isn’t fan dedication, we don’t know what is. John Remus (@johnremus) was able to chase this fan down during the race to grab this shot.

Joshua (@joshua75W) stopped by for this shot as the crew works away on the Porsche.

 From @Skinkyl0u, the Falken driver trio at the autograph session. 

Our friends at Sport Auto Live (@sportautolive) took this one of catching some good air!

Our friend from Racer Magazine, Tony (@tonydizinno), snapped this shot of the Porsche racing out of 10b at Road Atlanta.
 From Earl on 10 Tenths, here’s a fan photo of one of the tours from the weekend.

Another shot from Earl, Bryan and Martin explain the steering wheel on the Porsche. 

 From J. Hamilton on 10 Tenths, here's another shot of Bryan and Martin giving a tour.

From Jared (@zoomjaredsiegel), here’s the Porsche racing into the sunset.

It may be the off season but don’t go anywhere! We still have more to come!